Where Are They Now: Landon Steenbakkers

At BioCanRx, we are incredibly proud of our HQP and their dedication to cancer immunotherapy research. Whether they are working on viruses in the lab or examining the socioeconomic barriers to adopting certain treatments in Canada, each one plays a unique role in strengthening our network and expertise in immunotherapy.


BioCanRx is invested in our HQP by providing them with both the training and skills they need to be leaders in academia and industry.


1. Tell us about yourself. Give us a brief background. Who are you? Where did you go to school and what is your association to BioCanRx?


I grew up in Kingston, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Ontario. As a child, I spent a significant amount of time exploring the conservation area adjacent to our property, fostering a deep passion for nature and biology. This enthusiasm led me to spend many of my summer vacations on camping trips with a local outdoor education center. Living in close proximity to the water also fueled my love for swimming, prompting me to join a competitive swim team. My affinity for puzzles and problem-solving, coupled with my interest in biology, eventually guided me to McMaster University, where I began my 5-year degree in Bioengineering. Here I joined the varsity swim team where I competed for 4 years against other Canadian teams.


Outside of the pool and the classroom I searched for more opportunities to challenge myself academically. I found the perfect academic challenge in research, and in the spring of 2022, I had the privilege of joining the lab of Dr. David Latulippe, where I became involved in a collaborative project with Sartorius Canada Inc. This opportunity was made possible with the support of BioCanRx, in the form of a summer studentship. It allowed me to attend the Summit for Cancer Immunotherapy where I presented my work in the form of a poster and connected with some incredibly brilliant minds in the field.


2. Where do you work now, and what is your position?


After my studentship I continued my work in the Latulippe lab on the same project. Eventually, an opportunity presented itself with our corporate partner, Sartorius in Göttingen, Germany. Sartorius is a global life sciences company with around 15 000 employees at more than 60 locations. Their product portfolio ranges from innovative lab instruments and consumables to a broad set of single-use solutions for manufacturing biopharmaceuticals. This position aligned perfectly with my degree as I still required 6 months of work to get the co-op distinction. In the fall of 2023, I left Canada and moved to Germany to begin my work as an Intern in Sartorius’ advanced upstream bioprocessing corporate research team.


“Sartorius’ mission is to deliver next-generation technology solutions and concepts to provide biopharmaceutical therapies faster and more cost efficient for the benefit of patients, customers, and our partners. Corporate Research is delivering innovations across the new and emerging therapeutic modalities. This is executed by teams working in the areas of molecular & cell biology, sensorics, data analytics, bio analytics, automation, and material sciences. Innovation is driven through an open collaboration approach including research industry partners, academia and consortia.” – Julia Niemann (Manager of Upstream Bioprocessing at Sartorius)


I have been incredibly fortunate to have been granted this opportunity. Being a member of this collaboration has taught me so much and allowed me to directly apply learned knowledge and theory from my degree into real-world scenarios. In the spring of 2024, I will return to McMaster University to finish my bachelor’s degree. I greatly look forward to continuing my research with the Latulippe Lab and returning to my studies with a new understanding of bioprocessing and bioengineering.


3. What are your future goals?


Once I return to Canada next spring, I will continue to work in the Latulippe lab while finishing off the final year of my bachelor’s degree. After this, my intention is to pursue graduate school, with the ultimate goal of returning to the world of bioprocessing research where I can actively contribute to the forefront of biomanufacturing.


4. Do you have any advice on how to establish a work/life balance?


I find the best way to establish a work life balance is taking time for physical activity. Whether this be swimming in the pool, going to the gym, or walking around the neighborhood as a study break, I find it really useful to have some scheduled time set aside that doesn’t involve work. Moreover, physical activity is a great way to let out any built-up stress or anxiety.


5. What are some of the biggest challenges you face day-to-day?


Every day in the lab is unique, presenting a fresh set of challenges and setbacks. For me, one of the most significant recurring challenges is effective communication, particularly due to the language barrier. The Sartorius team is wonderfully diverse, composed of individuals from all corners of the globe. However, the predominant language of communication within the team is German. Despite everyone in the lab being proficient in English and being exceptionally accommodating, occasional misunderstandings or malapropisms can still arise, causing confusion and making it challenging to follow instructions. This experience has taught me to approach communication with a more critical mindset, always erring on the side of caution and readily seeking clarification when necessary.


6. What does a typical workday look like for you?


I wake up at 6 am and get ready for my day. During breakfast I like to take some time to read a book and answer messages from friends and family back in Canada. Due to the difference in time zone, I typically have lots of fun updates to look through. I then take the bus to work and arrive around 7:30 am. I grab a coffee and get to work replying to emails and organizing my day. I then spend the rest of my morning down in the lab working on our bioreactors, culturing cells, and helping to fix or solve any problems that may come up.


After lunch I return to the lab for a few hours, then at the end of my day I like to spend some more time in the office. Typically, this involves another round of emails or video calls to my colleagues in Canada (as they are now at the start of their workday). Unless something comes up, I like to leave around 4:30 pm. I then head to the gym for around 90 minutes and walk home to my apartment. Following a nice shower, I sit down for dinner (which I typically meal prep the weekend before). I then like to spend some time to myself relaxing (typically in the form of reading, calling friends back home, or watching a show) and practicing my German using Duolingo. Dann, gegen 21 Uhr, gehe ich normalerweise ins Bett und träume von Bioproduktion.


7. What do you enjoy most about your current role?


My favorite part of my role is getting to see and work on so many cool and interesting projects. Each day I learn something new and gain valuable hands-on experience. Furthermore, I’m fortunate to work alongside highly knowledgeable colleagues who are consistently willing to lend a hand. They readily address any questions I may have regarding equipment, processes, or lab procedures.


Landon Steenbakkers